“Thomas” (novelette) by Dominique Douay
English Publication History: Travelling Towards Epsilon (New English Library, 1977)
Original: French (Thomas), 1974
Translated by Beth Blish, 1976
Synopsis: Alduce huddles down with Thomas as they observe a figure approach from the concave horizon. Alduce’s simple male fantasies are awakened with the coming of the dull yet beautiful girl. Ever unsatisfied with their location, they continue to trek only to come back to the same point in their seemingly closed universe. All of this is observed with clinical interest by Georges the human physician and Psychan the machine, who thinks Thomas isn’t who he seems to be. 28 pages
Pre-analysis: There are many situations in social life that reflect different facets of our personality. We’re all dynamic in that sense—able to adapt our outward personalities to fit a friendly atmosphere or ones of uncertainty, hostility, awkwardness, or flirtatiousness. Like chameleons, we change and react; we act and adjust; we either integrate or segregate ourselves.
Much of this adaptation is done unconsciously. We can feel the change in ourselves, so we can choose to control it, too—for example, rather than feel fear in strange circumstances, we can choose to feel playful. But lying under all these masks of outward emotion and often faux personalities, there sits out true self—the unseen hand that guides our wants and needs. If you subscribe to Freudianisms, this id is the “the set of uncoordinated instinctual trends” and goes beyond simple wants and needs, but it is also the steam train locomotive of our libido. Choo choo.
Regardless of internal/external pressures or intrinsic/extrinsic motivations, all of our actions are governed by who we are—there not one iota of id within ourselves that is someone else, that is otherworldly, that is alien… even barbarous reactions to extreme circumstances are part of ourselves.
Analysis: Georges and Psychan observe the closed-universe mind of Alduce in an attempt to understand his unconscious motivations. Psychan ignored Occum’s Razor when it comes to the diagnosis while Georges concludes that Psychan, the machine, is actually crazier than the man whom they’re clinically observing. The machine diagnostician thinks that Thomas isn’t a figment of Alduce’s id, that that past of his dreamscape is actually in interloper. Georges deems this insanity in itself, until Thomas begins to react to their observations, altering the closed-universe, and spelling relative danger for the mentality of the patient and the reality of the doctors.
Figments of personality in the unconscious state can span the range of the urbane, the excitable, the reproachable, the repugnant, the demanding, the libidinous—all aspects probably resides within ourselves, even the saints walking among us. Though Thomas’s motives lay outside of Alduce’s own, the blueprint for Thomas is probably already available within his mind. We all have our own Thomas lurking within us, a Thomas with both internal and real-world ramifications. Name this facet of our id anyway you like—be it Doubting Thomas or any other caricature—but there certainly lurks that anonymous agent of our fears.